EAGAN, Minn. — Although there were some ups and downs, it was an overall successful season for the 2022 Vikings special teams under first-year coordinator Matt Daniels.
Daniels was Minnesota's third coach at the position in as many years, but the Vikings had several players flourish within the unit.
Punter Ryan Wright joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent and competed with veteran Jordan Berry throughout training camp. Not only did Wright earn the starting job, but the rookie from Tulane shined in 2022.
Wright finished in the top 15 in the NFL in gross average yards (47.4, 15th) and in the top 10 in net average (42.5, 10th), punts (73, tied for 10th), long (73 yards, tied for seventh) and punts inside an opponent's 20-yard line (32, tied for fourth).
Kicker Greg Joseph had a rocky start to his second season in purple. He made nine of 14 field goal attempts in the Vikings first seven games, with all five misses coming from 50 yards or longer.
But Joseph found his stride in the second half of the season, as he connected on 14 consecutive field goals and 18 of his final 20 attempts across 11 games (including the postseason).
Kene Nwangwu improved on his stellar rookie season in 2021 as the Vikings kickoff returner, finishing second in the NFL in yards (920) and tied for first in returns (35). He was also just one of five players to return a kickoff for a touchdown in 2022 and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.
Jalen Reagor split time as a wide receiver and Minnesota's punt returner after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on Aug. 31.
Andrew DePaola recorded a strong year in his eighth overall NFL season and third with Minnesota. DePaola's efforts earned the long snapper First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, becoming the first Vikings long snapper to reach the Pro Bowl.
View the photos of Vikings special team during the 2022 season.
Notable Numbers: 61 & 73
It didn't take Joseph long in 2022 to find his way into the Vikings record book.
The kicker set a career long with a 56-yard field goal in Week 1 against Green Bay that tied Paul Edinger and Blair Walsh for the longest in franchise history.
Then in Minnesota's final regular-season home game against the Giants in Week 16, Joseph found himself with a chance to shatter that benchmark as he lined up for a 61-yarder in the final seconds.
Joseph's boot sailed through the uprights to propel the Vikings to a 27-24 victory.
Wright also established a career best early in the season, recording 10 punts against Miami in Week 6, including one that traveled 73 yards. Wright's furthest punt was tied for the seventh longest of the season and tied Greg Coleman for the fifth longest in franchise history.
Wright was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Dolphins, and Joseph won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice (Week 4 vs. Saints in London and Week 16 vs. Giants).
1. Winner, winner
The Vikings set an NFL record in 2022 with 11 one-score victories.
Five of those wins were resolved by Joseph, who had three previous game-winning field goals in his career.
Providing a game-winner in a road environment — such as Joseph's first three winners in 2022 (Week 4 against New Orleans in London, Week 9 at Washington and Week 10 at Buffalo) — is one thing, but the thrill of sealing a home victory on the game's final play is hard to top.
Joseph accomplished the feat not once, but twice — in consecutive games.
In Week 15 against Indianapolis, Minnesota stormed back from a 33-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 36 and ultimately force overtime. After both teams traded punts to start overtime, the Vikings marched down to the Colts 22 before Joseph connected on a 40-yard kick to seal the 39-36 victory.
Joseph's kick not only helped Minnesota complete the greatest comeback in NFL history, but it also clinched the Vikings first NFC North title since 2017.
The following week, the Vikings and the Giants were tied at 24 with 2:01 left before Minnesota drove down to the New York 42 with just four seconds remaining. Standing on the braid of the Norseman logo at midfield, Joseph calmly drilled the 61-yard field goal to cement the final tight victory of the season for the Vikings.
2. Thanksgiving fireworks
The Vikings played on Thanksgiving in 2022 for the ninth time in franchise history and their first as a host.
Facing New England, Minnesota trailed the Patriots 23-16 with 10:54 left in the third quarter after quarterback Mac Jones found tight end Hunter Henry for a 37-yard touchdown.
In need of a spark, Nwangwu provided it on the ensuing kickoff.
The Vikings return specialist secured the ball at the 3-yard line, took a few steps forward before veering toward the Minnesota sideline. He got around the edge and turned on the afterburners for a 97-yard score to tie the game at 23. Minnesota went on to defeat New England 33-26.
Nwangwu was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the Week 12 victory.
Made 26 of 33 field goals (78.8 percent) with a long of 61 yards; made 40 of 46 extra points (87.0 percent); led the Vikings with 118 total points; played 170 snaps on special teams (34.5 percent)
Averaged 47.4 yards on 73 punts with a net average of 42.5; had one punt blocked; landed 32 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line; had one punt result in a touchback; completed 1 of 2 pass attempts for 13 yards; played 159 snaps on special teams (32.3 percent)
Played 159 snaps on special teams (32.3 percent); did not have any errant snaps
Recorded 920 yards on 35 kickoff returns (26.3 yards per attempt) with a long of 97 yards for a touchdown; recorded three solo special teams tackles; played 154 snaps on special teams (31.2 percent)
Recorded 167 yards on 26 punt returns (6.42 yards per attempt) with a long of 25; played 62 snaps on special teams (12.6 percent)
Led Vikings with 403 snaps on special teams (81.7 percent)
C.J. Ham, Josh Metellus & Troy Dye
Each played 300-plus snaps on special teams
Jalen Nailor, Pat Jones II & Brian Asamoah II
Each played 200-plus snaps on special teams
The highest high
1. After suffering his first two missed field goals of the season against Detroit in Week 3, Joseph responded in a big way overseas in London the following week.
The Vikings kicker connected on a career-high five field goals against the Saints, including a 47-yarder to put Minnesota up 28-25 with 24 seconds remaining.
He added kicks of 28, 36, 24 and 46 yards, as well as an extra point that ended the Vikings opening touchdown drive.
Joseph's previous single-game career best of four field goals was set at home against the Lions in 2021, where he also had the game-winner at the end of regulation to lift Minnesota to a 19-17 victory.
The lowest low
1. The Vikings special teams provided an early spark against Green Bay in Week 17, as Metellus blocked Packers punter Pat O'Donnell's attempt to give Minnesota the ball at Green Bay's 1-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Vikings couldn't punch it in and settled for a short field goal from Joseph.
The next play, Minnesota allowed Green Bay return specialist Keisean Nixon to take the ensuing kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown to put the Packers in front at 7-3. Green Bay didn't look back, defeating Minnesota 41-17.
2 pressing questions for 2023
1. Do the Vikings bring back Joseph?
Minnesota has seen several kickers come through the door in recent years, with Joseph being the fifth at the position since 2016.
Joseph is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which begs the question: do the Vikings bring him back for a third season or look elsewhere?
Despite seeing inconsistencies at times with field goals and extra points in 2022, Joseph made it count when it mattered most for Minnesota.
2. Can Nwangwu keep up his hot pace?
In just two NFL seasons, Nwangwu has rapidly climbed up the kickoff returning leaderboard.
Nwangwu's three returns for touchdowns are tied for 31st in NFL history, and he is currently six back of the leader — Cordarrelle Patterson, who's played 10 NFL seasons. The former Viking and current Falcon set the record for most kickoff return touchdowns (nine) in NFL history with a 103-yard score against Chicago in Week 11.
While Nwangwu is off to a strong start, he saw fewer opportunities for a return from opponents in 2022, with 61 kickoffs going for touchbacks.
Nwangwu could have an increased role in Minnesota's backfield in 2023 if either Dalvin Cook and/or Alexander Mattison don't return, but for now, he'll continue to make his way toward history as a returner — if he has an opportunity to do so.